Improvement in Smash 4 VI – Preparing for a Tournament

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

In a stroke of a luck, I actually have a tournament I’ll be attending this weekend! All of you who read this series and find it insightful can now meet me in person (if you haven’t already). Don’t worry, I’ll have a pen ready to sign autographs!

But blissful dreams aside, preparing for a tournament is a crucial part to how you’re going to play the day of. You need to be prepared if you want to maximize your chances of succeeding. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Research

The first thing you want to do is research. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local*/monthly/regional/national – you need to do your research. Are Miis allowed? Customs on or off? What about stage list?

*Obviously, if this is a local that you’re a regular at, you should know the rules

Next, research the players. Who’s attending? Any top names? Also try and find prominent local members of that area’s community. Are other players from different areas in the stage going? Who’s in the top 15 of the state/region/area?

What characters do all of those players use? What’s the area/state’s most popular character? Chicago, for example, is heavy on Mario and Sheik.

If you’re traveling, make sure you’ve got stuff planned. The more stress you can reduce before the tournament, the more you can focus on training and health.

Where are you going to eat? See the food options available at the venue.

Training

Here’s where you take your research and apply it to your training. When it comes to a monthly/regional/national, you need to change your regiment. Play a little more and narrow down your training. If you’re from State Y and you’re coming to a Chicago monthly, you’re going to want to practice a little more against Sheik and Mario. Obviously, don’t neglect any characters, but your focus should be more on the popular characters and top players in the region and those characters. Is someone Out of State coming that’s a top player? Prepare for them too.

When you’re watching videos, study the top players to get a feel for how they play.

For stages, make sure you practice all the stages legal for that tournament. Give special attention to stages that aren’t legal in your local scene.

Remember when I said play for 30 minutes a day? Bump that up to 45 minutes to an hour. Try and attend as many locals as you can. If you want to win, you need to put in the time and effort, and you wanna ramp up before a tournament to maximize how well you’re playing.

A Few Other Things

SLEEP – You may want to play into the night before a tournament, but believe me you want to be alert, and coffee ain’t gonna do it for you. Get proper rest. If you’re staying up hella late you’re cutting your chances of winning.

SHOWER – And let me be clear, this doesn’t just benefit everyone. Cleaning yourself gives you a better chance of warding off being sick. You play worse when you’re sick.

EAT WELL – Don’t get a goddamn McGriddle before you play. You want sustainable energy that’ll help keep you alert and not exhausted. So, seriously, try and eat better the day of. Get chicken instead of a burger. Get a salad instead of fries. Eat a meal bar or a protein bar.

WATER – Drink it. Love it. Be it. Don’t drink poison *coughsodaenergydrinksanythingnotwatercough* Stay hydrated.

At the Tournament

Play friendlies!!! I can’t stress this enough. Play as many friendlies with as many different people as possible, preferably with either your main or a very comfortable secondary. The goal here is to attain as much knowledge as possible about your prospective opponents. Even if it means throwing down a little cash, get in those games with top players and talk to them. Most top players are actually pretty nice, and should be more than happy to offer you some tips.

Also, friendlies are a very good way to learn without going through the stress of a tournament match, which helps you conserve energy. You’ll want to make sure you don’t burn out over the course of the day, so make sure you do whatever it takes to stay in tip top form all day.

Most Importantly

When you’re at a tournament, have fun. Your mood is crucial to how well you’re going to be playing that day, so make sure you’re not focused solely on winning and stressing yourself out. Enjoy yourself! Plenty of times you’ll read articles from top players where they play insanely well because they were just enjoying themselves and somehow ended up winning the biggest tournament of their life.

——

Seriously, come say hi to me if you’ll be at Mashfest this Saturday, September 5th, if you haven’t already met me in person. I’ll be there, available for questions, chatting, friendlies, etc… you’ll know it’s me because I’m super loud and I’ll be wearing a gray Fedora with a Paper Mario pin on it.

Also, one more blog post before I wrap up the improvement series!

Just Sayin’

The tournament I’m going to is called Mashfest. Check out the FB page for it! Go to it! Y’know…to get my autograph 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/events/724406491038862/

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Advertisements

Improvement in Smash 4 V – Stages

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Let’s talk about stages.

Stages are tricky. They change how you play, how a match-up can work. Suddenly that low ceiling makes character X more adept at KO’ing from the top, and you panic more when above them. Maybe you get drained as you fire off another Smash attack and your opponent is living to 200%+ thanks to bigger blast zones. Whatever it may be, stages are the most dynamic part of Smash Bros, and one of the most important things to consider while practicing.

When it comes to stages, you’re at the mercy of the TO. They decide to use Halberd? You can’t say no. Delfino? Castle Siege? Tough luck, buddy. They’re gonna be there, and you may have to play on it.

But because of the unique way stage banning works, there are things you can do to practice efficiently (I’m assuming that you know how the stage banning process works. If you don’t, feel free to reach out to me personally or to someone else in the Chicago community. We can all help you with that).

Look at the Counter Pick list. Then look at your MU’s – is there a stage that doesn’t benefit you in any of your MU’s that you just don’t like? You don’t need to practice on it. If you’re going to be banning this stage almost every time and never take anyone there, there is zero reason to practice on it. Don’t waste your time. Likewise, if there’s a character you know you’ll never take a certain character to and always ban a certain stage for, don’t bother practicing that MU on that stage. If you happen to not have a stage that you’ll never play on – you practice every. Single. Stage. (that’s on the legal list of your tournament’s stages, of course).

Move around the stage. Execute a couple moves and look at your positioning. Make sure you practice every MU you think you’ll be playing on the stage, too. Look for spots on the stage where you see a positional advantage and make a note of it. See where your opponent will have the best advantage of your character.

Becoming comfortable with the stages you’ll be playing on will allow you to play better: you’re more comfortable with your character’s spacing there, you know the in’s and out’s of the stage, and you just feel better while playing on it. That can be the difference between a win and a loss sometimes, and it’s something you shouldn’t brush aside.

The bottom line about stages is this: Don’t let it be the stage that’s winning/losing when you’re counter picking/being counter picked.

Just Sayin’.

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 IV – Friendlies

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Let’s talk friendlies.

Friendlies are one of your best resources for valuable practice, especially since you can play in a low-risk environment where you can talk mid-match, pause, etc…

The absolute best way to utilize friendlies is to disregard their relevance as it pertains to your skill level. Losing sucks, but that shouldn’t compel you to play to win all the time. I want you to make sure you drill this into your head: Winning. Friendlies. Is NOT. Important. There’s no pride lost in losing a friendly.

Let me paint you a quick picture. It’s been 3 months since I picked up Project M competitively, and I go to the local monthly. There, an Out of State (OoS) Lucas players 3-stocks me in friendlies. Now my friends are gettin’ hype because I got bopped, as friends do, and I just laugh it off. Coincidentally, I fight the same Lucas player, and I solidly beat him – it’s a complete turnaround to what happened while we were playing friendlies. The kid wasn’t very happy when he lost – I’m pretty sure he was going in confident after 3-stocking me before. I won where it counted – in tournament.

So then, what should you be doing during friendlies once you’ve acquired this mindset? How did I go from losing those friendlies to winning in tournament? By experimenting!

When I play friendlies, my general game plan is “what can I get away with against this player?” To that end, I ask myself questions as I play – what if I try x move in y situation? Would z be more optimal? How well can my opponent punish me for throwing out moves haphazardly? How well can they deal with pressure on and offstage? Will they fall for a gimmick? What spacing are they struggling with against me? What habits can I ascertain easily? Once I find this out, I can adjust my game plan accordingly if we meet in bracket, where all that information will be put towards me winning.

To this end, I always play friendlies to learn, rather to win. Winning a bunch of friendlies is great, but playing to win means you’re not allowing yourself to explore the “what if” scenarios that are present in every game you play. That spike you don’t go for? Maybe you could’ve learned if it were possible by at least going for it in a friendly. You’re basically stripping yourself of valuable information.

Friendlies are also a great way to practice a specific MU. This is the only time I’ll tell you to take the player out of the equation momentarily – when you practice a MU, look for a few things:

– Move priority
– Kill %’s
– General Spacing

Then zone in more tightly. Look for ways to get around a Sheik throwing needles. What’s the best spot to disrupt a Yoshi’s Eggs? How can you space away from a Luigi’s grab? In other words, look for very character-specific instances and look for ways your character can beat it. Then, take all of this information and apply it to the player. Luigi can Nair through a double Uair combo, so see how a player reacts to it – do they stop it, do they not? Sometimes, even a disadvantageous position can turn advantageous if the player is unaware of it.

Make sure you’re talking with your opponent before, during, and after friendlies. Even if they don’t know much about the game, asking for advice or just conversing about the game can sometimes provide valuable insight into the game itself, the fundamentals, and how that player views and plays the game. That’s critical information when playing against them. You’ve (hopefully) read all of my posts now – how do you think I play the game? What’s my style? I guarantee you can tell from reading these posts.

Finally, friendlies provide one other very useful function – they’re GIANT energy-savers when it comes to endurance during a tournament. But we’ll talk about that later.

Friendlies are your best tool for practice. They allow you to learn and adapt without the pressure of winning. And if you’re experiencing pressure to win, drop that now and start thinking about friendlies differently. They’re a tool for you, not a way to prove yourself.

That’s what results and taking names in bracket are for.

Just Sayin’

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
V -Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 III – Attitude

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

You’ve got your tech down. Your movement is crisp. Your spacing? Immaculate. You walk into the tournament venue, ready to take on the world…

and then you find out your first round is against a Mario player.

And you HATE Mario. You just can’t seem to win, no matter who’s using him. The second Mario enters the battlefield, you lose. He Does that stupid grab, Up Tilt combos, Uair combos, Up Smash is ridiculous, he’s such a brain dead character sakjdhenmfdenfrmewtrcnmrcewtUAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does for a lot of you. And to be frank, most players encounter a character like this. But hold up for a second. You’re not losing because Mario’s an incredible character. No, you’re losing because of the limits you’re mentally imposing on yourself.

While I’m of the opinion that you can never be perfect in your fundamentals and tech, once you’ve got a good grasp of those it’s time to move onto the next stage – your mental game. Having mental endurance is absolutely crucial to winning. If you lose your composure, you’ll fall apart, no matter how good you are.

There are a few things I want to address in this post, and they’re all related in one aspect of your mental game – Attitude.

Here’s a definition of attitude I pulled from Google: “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”.

Now, let’s translate this into Smash terms. Attitude is, basically, how you’re thinking and feeling about a)your level of play in comparison to others, and b)characters in the game. There’s more to it (likes how you think/feel about rules), but these two are the ones most important to improvement.

Let’s start with characters. I want to preface this by saying that your opinion of a character can change very quickly. And it really depends on your opponent’s style. You may beat down campy Luigi’s like it’s just a Tuesday for you, but the second an aggressive Luigi comes along, you’re toast. And suddenly, you’re thinking about Luigi differently. Now those campy Luigi players are suddenly doing better because you know what Luigi can really do to you, and it scares you. You start playing differently, but it’s not to adapt. You’re playing afraid, giving too much respect – that kind of stuff.

You start crying out that your character just can’t beat Luigi. It’s time to pick up someone else, but you start doing worse even if at first you felt better about it. You complain that Luigi is stupid. Why does he have all these tools? It’s unfair!

There are three big problems with this progression – the first one, as I mentioned in my post about MU’s, is that character is taking over the player. You’re placing too much emphasis on the character you’re playing, and not the player. That needs to stop. You may lose to an aggressive player playing Luigi, but those guys you were beating before? There’s no reason they should be beating you overnight just because you got floored by the aggressive one. Recognize who you’re playing, not their avatar.

The second problem here is your emotions. One of the reasons why players get so frustrated with characters like Sheik, Mario, and Luigi are that they have good ways to deal with a lot of different options. And when a Sheik hits you 5 times in a row and you feel like you can’t do anything, it can be hard to shake that feeling away. Being more conscientious of how you’re feeling is something you’ll need to work on.

I want you to think about this the next time you fight a character you despise (especially in friendlies). Why do they frustrate you? Is it a move, a combo, their movement? Do you just hate the character as a character? Is there a possibility it’s the player behind the character that’s frustrating you?

The third thing is that a lot of people have really awful, simple-minded perceptions of characters, and project these onto players. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people complain about the throw combos from Sheik/Luigi/Mario/Ness, and how “anyone” can play these characters. Anyone can play Link, too.

But that’s not what they mean. This happens the most with Mario in Chicago, so I’ll use him. Mario, at least in the Chicago Smash 4 Scene, is considered “brain dead”, and “boring”. Anyone can pick him up and do well in a tournament.

I have never, in my 6 years of playing competitive Smash, seen this happen to an extreme degree. A guy picks up Mario and beats his friends, maybe moves from 17th to 13th? Cool. A guy picks up Mario and suddenly goes from 9th -> Top 3? NEVER.

Here’s the thing… there are exceptions, but look at the highest level of talent: world caliber players. When they pick up a new character, they have to put in the work before they see any substantial results, and if they don’t need to put in work then I can only see them as gifted players. These exceptions only happen with mid and low leveled players. I find those exceptions irrelevant because of that. No one’s aiming to be mid level when they want to win tournaments.

However, this was pretty prevalent in Brawl. Top-level players would switch to MK after losing game 1, and sometimes they’d win. Now, being that MK was actually a dominant character in Brawl and had incredible tools on paper that actually translated in-game, sometimes those pockets (as it was called) would win. It was rare, but I’ve seen it. Never, though, did a pocket MK win a tournament. It just didn’t. The better player usually won anyway, especially as you went farther into a bracket; that’s very much the case in every Smash Bros. iteration, including Wii U.

So back to Mario. He’s brain-dead and boring, and anyone can pick him up and do well. Here’s the thing…that’s wrong. Yup, wrong. Look, I understand – Mario has a straight-forward game plan, but why is it that he’s brain dead and boring and Luigi isn’t? Why isn’t Sheik? What about Sonic? Or Falcon? Falcon is literally Dthrow -> Uair/Nair -> Uair/Nair. Dthrow -> Knee or something along those lines for the KO. They’re try to stomp offstage or knee. I dunno…seems pretty brain-dead to me. I know I could pick him up pretty easily. Same with Luigi. Dthrow combos, Dthrow -> Up B, fireball to control space. Bam. Done. Luigi’s brain-dead and boring, too.

I hope you see where I’m going with this. Every character has an optimal game plan depending on the player and character they’re facing. They have good moves and bad moves. They can all be broken down easily, and they can all be seen as boring and brain-dead in my eyes. But I don’t see it that way. I see a character with tools that a player can uniquely utilize. Will two players use the same tools? Sure, it’s how games like this work, and sometimes they’ll be exactly the same, but more often than not, the utilization is different, and that’s what makes every character interesting. Only when every single player would use the same tool in every situation because it is clearly the best option every. Single. Time…will I find a character to be truly “brain-dead” and “boring”.

And this is how you should see this, too. A character may be simple, but not that simple.

——

Let’s talk about how good you think you are.

You’re undefeated amongst your friends, you’re callin’ kids in the top 10 of your local scene trash. You think your opinions are so insightful. You never think you should be losing.

That’s a bad way to approach your scene, buddy.

Listen, everyone likes a few hot heads, but you best believe it’s not helping you improve. Look, thinking you’re better than everyone is semi-good. You’ve got a lot of confidence in yourself and expect a lot. Buuuut, that’s where the problem starts. When you lose, it hurts. You should NEVER lose to Player X! But you did, and now you’re lookin’ bad because you were talkin’ trash earlier. Ouch.

You start getting mad quickly, and when you don’t live up to these expectations of being better than everyone, you can start disliking the game altogether. You’re only having fun if you’re beating everyone else, and don’t get me wrong – losing isn’t fun in a serious competition. But to get so angry that you want to stop? C’mon, now.

There’s a better way to look at this. Instead of thinking you’re better than someone, just have the confidence that you have the potential to be the best. Yes, you have the potential to be better than even ZeRo, but it takes time to get there. But as long as you believe in that potential, you can use that as a motivator.

Obviously, you have to put in the work, otherwise it’s a false belief, but you can use this confidence to motivate yourself. I go into every set, no matter who I’m playing, thinking I can win. I’ll even acknowledge that it’s gonna be hard, and if you came and talked to me beforehand I’d tell you I have a good shot at losing, but once I sit down to play I’m 100% convinced that I can win. Not that I will, mind you, but that I can.

It seems silly, but thinking you’re going to win really puts pressure on yourself. Just play the best you can and think you can win. if you don’t? You’ll get ’em next time. It sounds silly to utilize the whole “try, try again” mentality, but if you’re actively putting in the work, I think this is the best mindset you can have. Eventually, you’ll get those results. I have twice achieved status as a top 10 player in Chicago, once in Brawl and once in Project M. Twice I have used this mentality to help myself.

Believe me, I was an arrogant kid back when I first started getting good at Brawl. Then I got really angry when I lost and it frustrated me. I had to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was approaching the game, and it all came together after months of hard work after realizing I had to change how I thought about the game.

———————-

So what usually happens with these bad attitudes? Well, the most obvious one is that these players tend to make excuses. Here are some common ones:

– I wasn’t trying
– I was tired/sick/hungry/too hot/too cold, etc…
– Character X is so stupid
– My C-Stick wasn’t working
– Crowd was too distracting
– Couldn’t hear the sound
– Too cramped of a venue
– My hands were cold
– It’s impossible for Character X to beat Character Y
– Move Z is broken
– I SD’d twice

These are all barriers that hold them back. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player from being consistent. These are the biggest barriers that hold a player back from being truly great.

Notice, for just a moment…that these are complaints to hide behind to take away from a player’s victory, and to bolster your bruised ego. You’re using a mid-tier and lose to Sheik. “Sheik’s so busted”. Okay. You knew what you were getting into. “I SD’d”. Okay. Maybe if you were more aware of your positioning you wouldn’t have put yourself in a situation to SD. “Physiological excuses”. Bruh. Really? Part of being good is taking care of yourself. It’s on you that you lost, still.

This mentality that players…I dunno, aren’t important? It’s ridiculous. You’re fighting another person. They’re sitting right next to you. Why doesn’t anyone ever complain about a player when it comes tournament time? Why don’t they just admit that another player is puttin’ in work and it’s paying off when they get beaten by said player? I don’t understand.

These are all things you can work on, but what I really want to stress before this ends is that there’s an intrinsic belief that character > player. I’ve been talking about this since my first blog post, and for good reason. Once you realize that it’s the player, not the character, that’s truly important, I guarantee your mindset will only improve.

Well, except for being arrogant. But we’ll let that slide.

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

I – Fundamentals
II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
IV – Friendlies
V -Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers”.

If you were to ask me, “Kappy, what prevents players from improving?”, I would say without hesitation that one of the top things are, “match ups” (or, as everyone refers to them in text format, MUs). MUs describe the likelihood of a character beating another character, strictly speaking. The way it usually goes: If two players of equal skill play, character X has a XX:YY MU with character Y. This is usually categorized in this way:

50:50 – Even
55:45 – Small Advantage
60:40 – Advantage
70:30 – Big Advantage
80:20 – Huge Advantage
90:10 – Gigantic Advantage
100:0 – Guaranteed Win

I think there’s something inherently flawed about discussing MUs like this. Let me be perfectly clear – numerically showing how character X does against character Y is fine; in fact, I agree with it. The problem is how it’s discussed and approached.

Let me craft a scenario for you. Say you go up against a player who places the same as you in your local scene. You two seem to always get the same place, but you two have never met in bracket. This time, it’s different. You’re going up against him, and he’s using a character that has a 100:0 MU against yours. You two sit down to play, two supposed evenly-matched players, and you emerge the victor.

I’ve seen this happen before.

What’s happening here? The biggest problem approaching MUs with numbers is that character takes over player. It should be flipped. Player trumps Character. It might be an uphill battle for your character, but it’s not so simple as, “Character X walls Y. It’s hard for them to get in.” No, it’s not so cut and dry. Even with an equal skill level, a player’s tendencies can change how the MU actually is in practice.

What if you spun it as, “I struggle against hyper-defense. I find it difficult to approach.” This not only spins the blame to give you something to practice, it gets rid of blaming your character or the MU for losing. A number doesn’t define who you’ll win and lose to, who you’ll struggle and not struggle against.

So what can you do to stop thinking this way? Combine Player and Character into a single unit.

Combining player and character gives way to two distinct ways to view a MU, and both are essential to improving: Play Style and Character Interactions. What are these?

Play Style refers to how a player makes decisions during a match. Do they apply pressure, grab a lot, camp, etc… This is usually categorized further for generality – aggressive, defensive, etc… I won’t get too into that, but Play Style also encompasses a player’s reactions, emotions, etc… their style changes as they play, and if they don’t – well, if you can counter play it without them adapting, then you’re going to win no matter the character.

Character Interaction refers to on paper interactions between characters. This is usually discovered through experimentation on the player’s part. Let me list what I think this consists of:

– Move Priority
– Kill %’s
– Punishment Options

Move Priority refers to the interaction between two character’s moves. A good example would be Kirby’s Dair vs Marth Up Tilt. Marth’s Up Tilt beats Kirby’s Dair, so it wins and Kirby will (most likely) get hit.

Kill %’s are just that. When does X move KO at Y percent on character Z?

Punishment Options refers to options your character has to punish character X in any given situation. Can you shield grab an Fsmash? A Ftilt? Can you punish a whiffed move with a Smash/Tilt/etc…?

When I approach a MU, I think about these things instead of the numbers. I think about what I’m going to need to do to overcome any adversity the MU presents me with. If my character struggles against projectiles, I need to find ways to counter the player’s style with those projectiles. Do I have a move that’ll just outright beat the projectile? Does the player panic when I get too close? When should I start looking for a KO? (Notice how this is basically Adaptability)

——

Obviously, some characters do beat others. It’s the way a game like this works. And in a game like this, some characters have a lot of “bad” MUs. And they will struggle, and you can clearly see how a character struggles. However, simplifying the MU to the point where you’re going in expecting it to be incredibly hard or maybe impossible is neglecting the fact that there’s a person controlling that avatar. You’re forgetting about human error, human psychology, even human physiological responses during a set. This is stuff that you need to think about when it comes to MUs, and it’s reflected in their play style.

If you wanna use numbers when sitting at home thinking about MUs, fine. Don’t let me stop you. But you best believe that you shouldn’t be oversimplifying MUs when you’re about to play someone. Treat them as complex as they should be – it’s a character controlled by a player, not the other way around. Remember that.

When you’re giving advice, don’t just use the character. That’s for tier list/character interactions/theorycrafting discussion specifically. Otherwise, think about the player, too. Don’t let players ask, “how does X do against Y?” Demand they be more specific. No two players play the same way – acknowledge that in how you ask for and give out advice.

Repeat after me: “MUs aren’t just numbers.”

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

I – Fundamentals
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow

Improvement in Smash 4 I – Fundamentals

**If you’re unfamiliar with Smash, this probably isn’t the post for you unless you’re curious. In order to get a full understanding of this, you should be familiar with Smash’s game mechanics and lingo (EX: Forward Air = Fair), specifically the mechanics for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

Lately, my local scene (Chicago/Chicagoland) for Super Smash Bros. Wii U (Smash 4) has had a big increase in new players that are hungry for improvement. Some are decent but not quite at that high level, some are completely new, and others are old vets trying to get back into Super Smash Bros. The most common questions I’m hearing from these guys are along the lines of “Where do I start?”, “What do I need to know if I really want to push myself to the next level?”, and “What MU’s do I need to focus on?”.

I’m here to help you, players! I’m going to be writing a couple blog posts aimed at my local scene to attempt to help them improve and become incredible players. Obviously, this small little series is going to be aimed at Super Smash Bros Wii U, so keep that in mind.

For all of you Chicago Smash 4 kids who may not know me and are probably asking “who’s this nerd thinkin’ he can give us advice?”, let me give you a quick introduction of myself. My tag in Smash is Kappy. I’ve been playing competitively since Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out when I first attended a smash fest in my local area and got 3-stocked by a Ganondorf. Since then, I’ve taken a few breaks from Smash due to school and work, but when I was playing I managed to steal a spot in the top 10 of WIL’s (A combined PR of Wisconsin and IL’s Chicago scene) PR for one season after a couple years of competing (and then I took a break because school). I’ve been Honorable Mention multiple times in Brawl, and was a 2-time panelist for the official MU’s of Kirby (my main) during Tier List updates for Brawl.

After my break, I picked up Project M and played exclusively Meta Knight, where I managed to, again, reach the top 10 players in the Chicagoland area’s PR for EXP Gaming.

As for Smash 4, I’ve only entered 2 tournaments. I don’t know all the little intricacies of the game, but my fundamentals have allowed me to do well so far.

I could go on, but that’s the basic gist of my level of skill as a player. I’m no national monster, but I think I’m at a level where I could become one if I really dedicated myself; and you can definitely become a national monster! Here’s how to start that journey:

Where do I start?

Fundamentals. That’s it. You start with the basics of the game. These fundamentals are present in every iteration of Super Smash Bros.

What are fundamentals, you may ask? A lot of people may have slightly varying definitions of what the fundamentals of Smash 4 are, but here are the skills I think are fundamental to Smash:

– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage
– Reactions and Punishes
– Identifying habits (Adaptation)
– Neutral

Let’s dig a little deeper into what those things are.

Spacing is the concept of throwing out a move when it is hardest to punish it, when it out ranges another move, or when it creates an advantageous situation for you. If you’re Marth, and you throw out a Forward Air close enough that Mario can use his Neutral Air, that’s a problem, especially since Marth’s sword out ranges Mario’s Neutral Air.

Another good example is spacing an aerial in such a way that you can’t be shield-grabbed even if you hit their shield.

Positional Awareness ties into almost everything. It’s about being aware of where you are, where your opponent is, and what that means for you in terms of advantages/disadvantages. If you’re under a platform and you’re against someone who thrives being under someone, you should be aware of that and position yourself accordingly. Don’t try to force an engagement when you’re in a bad position unless you see your opponent putting themselves in a position that will suddenly benefit you.

Option Coverage is simple. In any given situation, there are choices you and your opponent must make. These are options. You can choose to cover certain options and not others. Learning which moves covers the most options in a given situation is something that every player needs to be proficient in.

Reactions and Punishes is just your reaction speed. If you can’t capitalize in a mistake, you’re going to lose more than win. This also entails knowing the right punish. If Jigglypuff misses Rest, don’t just jab combo her. Charge an attack, set up a KO combo, etc…

Identifying Habits refers to being able to pick up on an option your opponent takes often in a given situation. For instance, in the first 30 seconds I notice that whenever I run at my opponent, he rolls away from me. Next time, instead of throwing out an attack or grab, I follow his roll and punish him for it with a grab combo.

Neutral is the most abstract. Neutral is a state within fighting games that refers to when both players are “safe”. Neither one is being hit, neither one is easily seen to be on the defensive or offensive. It’s basically a culmination of all the fundamental skills because you have to navigate and win neutral to win the game.

This is where everything comes together. Winning neutral refers to winning exchanges made in neutral that transition to another state. If I space a Back Air with Mario and hit, I’ve transitioned to be offensive while my opponent has transition to being defensive. I have won that neutral exchange.

Neutral is difficult to master. Being aware of what options your opponent has at certain ranges of each other and where you two are (Spacing, Positional Awareness, Option Coverage) will allow you to more accurately predict (Identifying Habits) and punish (Reactions and Punishes) a mis-spaced aerial, grab, etc…

Being able to figure out your opponent’s game plan and win exchanges in neutral based on that knowledge is referred to as Adaptation.

So how do you practice your fundamental play? Obviously, attending tournaments and playing with people is the best way, but if you’re alone? Fear not! There are two simple ways to practice everything.

CPU’s and video watching.

What do you use to practice each technique? Here’s a quick’n’dirty list:

CPU’s
– Spacing
– Positional Awareness
– Reactions and Punishes
– Option Coverage

Videos
– Identifying Habits
– Positional Awareness
– Option Coverage

Human Players
– Neutral

Notice how fighting a human is basically practicing everything, while the other two let you hone in on specific skill sets (with a little overlap).

Let’s start from the top:

CPU’s

So, here’s an old adage I’m sure you’ve heard:

“CPU’s suck and help YOU form bad habits”

This is false.

If you’re conscious while practicing, you can make sure not to auto pilot and form those bad habits. CPU’s are great to space around and practice reaction time. If a CPU techs, they’re the exact same as a human. Practice punishing rolls and spot-dodges. CPU’s are great for nailing Air Dodge punishes on reaction or covering those options. Practice combos – CPU’s will either attack you or air dodge as soon as they can, so see how far you can go with a combo before that happens.

Practice reacting to DI. CPU’s are notorious for having either bad or godlike DI, so practice reacting to it. Don’t predict, just react.

Think about your advantages and disadvantages while on the ledge, platforms, center stage, in the air, etc… CPU’s are pretty notorious for having inhumane reaction time, so sometimes you can see weird holes in your play because of their flawless execution and reaction. Try to attack them – can a move of theirs outright beat the one you’re using? If so, think of different ways to get around it.

The most important thing about fighting CPU’s is to NOT AUTOPILOT. Be absolutely conscious while you’re training and really think about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to practice. React to them, do NOT try to predict them.

Videos

Here’s where a good chunk of your mental game comes into play. Watch any match – bad players, good players…whatever! I want you to pick a player and try and find their habits. Do they tech roll to the left? Do they always use get up attack if a player is running towards them and they missed their tech? Pick apart these habits. Try to predict a player’s habits mid-match. Try to predict their adaptation mid-match.

Look at an exchange between players – I think offstage or ledge play is most effective to begin with – and see what options are being covered and what options are present. As an example, Player A is grabbing the ledge. He has the option to:

– Normal get up
– Ledge get up attack
– Roll get up
– Jump get up
– Drop down and regrab ledge
– Drop down and come up with an attack

What is Player B doing to cover these options, and how many is he covering? What could Player B do to cover as many options as possible? Think about these as you watch. Pause the videos if you have to, but ideally you should strive to analyze these as the video plays without pausing.

Look at the positions of the players. Center Stage is a highly coveted spot in Smash. It allows the most safety and is the best place to mount both a defense and an offense. See how the players interact with that. Try to spot when players inadvertently put themselves in a terrible position, especially when they have the lead. Watch how that bad position translates to a big punish for their opponent. Watch how players attempt to set themselves up to always be in an advantageous position.

A really good idea is to get videos of yourself and watch yourself play. Pick yourself apart, see where you could have made better decisions or put yourself in a better position, and see where you played well. This can really help if you’re feeling like you’re approaching a plateau.

Human Players

This is where it all comes together. Obviously, this is one of the most effective ways to get better. When you’re playing friendlies, you get to practice everything. Remember to be conscious while practicing. Don’t just mindlessly play.

Here’s a helpful tidbit – don’t get mad about losing. Anyone who knows me can attest that when I play friendlies, I suicide quite a bit. Why? Because I experiment. This option isn’t working? Let me try something weird. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least I now have experience about that particular decision.

Listen, you’re not going to learn what you can do just by watching others and heory-crafting about it. Try stuff out, especially when playing friendlies. Go for those crazy edge-guards. One day you might come upon a situation where that suicidal edge-guard will net you a win, especially if you’re ahead in stocks. You’ll thank yourself for having tried it out not only because you’ll win, but you’ll be lookin’ real fancy doing it.

If you’re playing on For Glory, take into account lag while playing. I don’t recommend For Glory for anything reaction-based because of lag, so if you are on it, try to predict more to practice that.

What about Match-Ups for my character?

I’m a firm believer that learning these fundamentals comes before even thinking about processing character v character match-ups. In fact, I think player v player is much more important, but I will be covering MU’s in my next bit of this series as well as stuff about picking a character and play styles.

So…how often should I be playing?

Every day. At least 30 minutes, no less. You want to get good? Play every day.

Play as long as you want, but realize that everyone has a limit before they start to burn out. At that point, STOP PLAYING. Or, at the very least, stop practicing and do something fun like Smash Tour. If you practice while you’re burnt out, you’ll become worse. Being burnt out is when you’ll start to autopilot and form awful habits. Me? I can play for probably 4-5 hours of serious play before I need a break.

——

I think Chicago’s scene has a lot of fire and potential, but not a lot of direction. I’m here to give you all who need it some direction so that you can all become amazing. Please, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Facebook or Skype (ID is ryan.klaproth) and ask about stuff like this or ask for some friendlies – I’m generally not available for them, but I’ll try to make time. I’m not the best player in Chicago, but I know how to talk about this stuff and break it down, and I can help you break down your own play styles, habits, explain these concepts in more detail, etc… And, you can always reach out to the top players in Chicago – they’ll be more than happy to help you, especially with character-specific stuff and MU knowledge.

Anyway, this is part 1. Save this post somewhere that’s easy to access and get practicing! Next time, I’ll be covering play style and anything more character-specific!

Just Sayin’

Link to the Chicago Smash 4 Facebook group: Clicky

Check out my other posts on improving in Super Smash Bros. Wii U!

II – A Different Way to Look at Match Ups
III – Attitude
IV – Friendlies
V – Stages
VI – Preparing for a Tournament
VII – Training Regimens
VIII – Character Loyalty

Check out the BONUS series!

IX – The Plateau
X – Practice Methods I
XI – Practice Methods II
XII – Practice Methods III
XIII – At a Tournament
XIV – Practice Methods BONUS IV
XV – Game Flow